In Hong Kong, at least twelve opposition members have been excluded from the general election. Several were arrested.
It is still uncertain when Hong Kong’s citizens will run for the parliamentary elections: although the ballot box is still scheduled for September 6 this year, media reports indicate that the local government wants to postpone the major political event in the financial metropolis by one year due to the increasing virus infections. But apart from the time, it is already clear that the seven and a half million Hong Kongers will have no real choice anyway.
At least twelve leading opposition politicians, including above all the emerging generation, were excluded from their candidacy on Thursday. The local government did not give specific names and reasons, but in a written statement it provided information on the criteria that lead to disqualification.
This includes, for example, “a fundamental rejection of the national security law”, which the Chinese government imposed on Hong Kong at the beginning of the month without democratic approval. In addition, one should not only “maintain” Hong Kong’s constitution, but also “support and promote” it.
The international candidate Joshua Wong, who had received the highest support of all the nominees in the unofficial opposition primaries earlier in the month, was among the candidates. The 23-year-old describes the latest measure as “the biggest blow so far against the city’s elections”: “Beijing shows total disregard for the will of the Hong Kong people.”
In fact, it was only a matter of time before the authorities would exclude unwanted candidates on the pretext of not being lawful. It has often happened like this. However, the exclusion of twelve candidates on a single day has so far been unique. The local government also threatened: “We are not ruling out the possibility of invalidating further nominations.”
Criticism from abroad is hailing for this decision: “It is not a democracy if the government decides which opposition candidates will be admitted,” says Green politician Reinhard Bütikofer, chairman of the China delegation to the European Parliament. On Tuesday, the EU imposed sanctions on China under the national security law.
The Communist Party is undeterred in its demonstration of power: On Wednesday, police officers arrested four activists between the ages of 16 and 21 on the basis of the new decree for “secessionist activities” – a criminal offense that includes up to ten years in prison. The four Hong Kongers are accused of having spoken out in favor of Hong Kong’s independence on social networks.
The detainees are members of Studentlocalism – a group founded by school-age youth in 2016. They had dissolved their association shortly before the national security law was introduced and moved it abroad. However, that does not seem to protect her from law enforcement: “Don’t think you are not responsible for posts on the Internet,” said Li Kwai-wah, head of the new national security agency, during a press conference on Wednesday.
Human rights organizations are outraged: “According to the police, all of the detainees were targeted because they expressed their views peacefully,” said Nicholas Bequelin of Amnesty International.
Hong Kong’s police officers had previously arrested eleven citizens under the new law, but only during protests.
Joshua Wong called on Twitter to persevere: “Despite everything, we will not give up Hong Kong. Our resistance will continue and we hope that the world will help us in the coming difficult struggle”. According to the logic of the new security law, his tweet can certainly be counted as a sentence, for example he calls for “collaboration with foreign powers”.